Burnet WWII veteran recalls service
November 11, 2013, 7:00 pm by Emily Zendt
World War II veteran Leon Graeter can still remember the deafening sound of successive gunfire and whistling bullets.
"We were shot at a lot during the entire stay over there — you could hear rival bullets go past you,” said Graeter, a Burnet resident. "As long as you could hear it coming through the air, whistling, we knew it was going over us. When the whistling stopped — that was time for us to start heading for the ground and ducking.”
Graeter, a retired U.S. Army field artillery corporal, was just 18 years old when he was drafted by the Army and served in WW II where he commanded the operation of an artillery piece.
If he had been given a choice, Graeter said he still would have enlisted.
"I was fixing to graduate when I got the papers that I was going to be drafted, and I guess the teachers felt sorry for me because I passed all my classes,” he recalled. "Then, I graduated and three days later I was in the Army and gone.
"I imagine I would (enlist if given a choice). I think it was my duty. It was my time to go.”
After training at various forts, Graeter was shipped
overseas and it was in
"It didn’t seem so bad then, shooting at something you didn’t see,” he said. "The only way we’d know if we were shooting at anything is if we were shooting at a convoy or their infantry would be advancing, we’d lay down on them to protect our boys and that’s the way it went.”
But he said the biggest engagement he fought in was the Battle of the Bulge, (Dec. 16, 1944 –Jan. 25, 1945) when a bridge was blown up, cutting Graeter and the troops off from their supplies, leaving them with very little to eat.
"We got trapped and we couldn’t go anywhere. We were encircled – Germans all the way around us — and that’s the way we stood for 10 days,” he said. "It just so happened that ol’ General (George) Patton was coming up from the southeast, and he saved us from getting taken prisoners or getting shot.”
Graeter says brutal winters and ill-equipped outfitting was a tough thing to endure.
"We would just dig us a hole, maybe four foot, and stack branches across the top. We’d fit in there three or four at a time – keep you warm,” he said.
For the full story, see the Tuesday edition of The Highlander.
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